Free Spirits

Alli Williams, co-editor in chief


Being ‘at the barn’ can mean all sorts of things, but to Blue Valley freshman Melanie White, it means being at home.

White said to get better at anything, you have to be committed.

“I go [to the barn about] every day,” White said. “It’s a good way to clear my mind.

White has been riding horses since she was 5 years old.

“My mom took me to my first lesson,” White said.

White’s mom Nancy Bigelow-White used to ride horses when she was White’s age.

“When I was little, my dad would take me to our farm in Louisburg, Kansas every Saturday,” Bigelow-White said.

Even though she said she doesn’t ride horses as much anymore, Bigelow-White said she loves taking White.

“I love that Melanie has found her passion at such a young age,” Bigelow-White said. “[After I took her to the barn for the first time, I knew], she had the passion. I think it’s in a person’s blood, and if you have it, you will do anything to be with your horse and ride. This is something she will have to enjoy her whole life.”

The barn is Lone Wolf Arena in Cleveland, Missouri, where White keeps her horse Koda. After school White spends most of her time there.

“I do get most of my work done [ahead of time],” White said­­. “But I definitely prioritize going to the barn on top.”

White is only one among the many equestrians at Blue Valley.

“It’s just such a great hobby,” freshman Kyra Redstone said. “I like the freedom I feel just riding around. I like the wind in my hair.”

Redstone said she got started similarly to the way White did.

“My mom decided to surprise me for my 10th birthday and she gave me horseback riding lessons,” Redstone said. “I’ve been riding ever since.”

After more than five years of horseback riding, Redstone doesn’t have her own horse, but she said she’s saving up for one.

“At some point I’ll have my own horse and ranch,” Redstone said.

Unlike White, Redstone doesn’t have a lot of time to visit her
barn during the school year.

“I try to go at least once a week, if not twice,” she said. “During the summer I usually go every other day.”


The secret to falling off is getting right back on. Redstone said
she is no stranger to this concept.

“I got thrown onto the wall last time I was riding,” Redstone said.

She now has a concussion.

“I won’t be riding that horse for a while, but once my concussion
is gone I’ll get right back to riding.”

According to, from 2001-2009, horseback riding accounted for 15.3 percent of Traumatic Brain Injuries for children under 20. More than 23,000 hospital visits were made for children’s horseback riding-related injuries.

Redstone said she’s not scared to get back on.

“I will definitely be more cautious and take it a little more easy,” Redstone said.

Though injuries are common in the world of equestrians, they are not always extreme, said White.

“When one of the horses [at my barn], West, bucked me off, it really hurt,” White said. “I never thought of quitting, but it did kind of startle me. I had to get right back on. Horses can feel it when you’re scared, so it isn’t great for that kind of situation.”

Redstone said she wouldn’t want her experience to discourage anyone from getting on a horse.

“You will have times where you may get thrown off,” Redstone said. “Just don’t worry about it.”


To take horseback riding to the next level, there are various different types of equestrian sports to compete in. Polo, speed racing, vaulting and showing are to name a few.

“I started when I was 12 years old,” White said. “I barrel race.”

White said barrel racing is essentially going around three barrels in a cloverleaf pattern as fast as you can.

White said she enjoys leisure riding but prefers competing most.

“It’s more fun,” she said. “You don’t really get to push the horse as hard when you’re just training. You don’t get to go as fast practicing. Leisure riding is great, but you can only ride the trails so many times before you get bored.”

In competing, White said she is often successful. Her room is filled with second, third and fourth place ribbons.

“[I’ve won first place] two times in the last three years.”

To be successful, White said she sets goals for herself and her horse.

“My goal is to be able to run Koda, my horse, in our home arena,” White said. “It’s hard though because he isn’t typically allowed to run in it. When he does get to, he gets too excited and runs past the first barrel and turns much too late. He usually ends up adding at least two seconds to our time, which is quite a bit in this sport. The goal would be to understand why Koda does this and to overcome it.”

When White isn’t practicing or racing, she works at her barn.

“[I just help out] here and there,” White said. “I get paid depending on what I do. I clean stalls and help with trail rides and camps. During camps, I assist the campers in catching
the horses, tacking up and supervising their riding by making sure safety precautions are taken. I help with crafts and teach the kids about horses, too.”

Despite spending so much time doing what she loves, White said she isn’t interested in
making barrel racing a profession.

“I wouldn’t be able to because it would be really hard.” White said. “It’s better to have an actual job and just ride on the side, which is what I plan to do.”

For anyone interested in horseback riding, White gives one piece of advice.

“You [go to] keep up with it and stay persistent,” she said. “Start and be dedicated.”